Engineering Design Group Scans Musical Instruments

In early April, a group from an undergraduate Engineering Design course contacted the IPCH Digitization Lab concerning the prospect of 3D scanning objects held in the Yale Collection of Musical Instruments. The group of five wanted to focus their efforts on developing a final project that would bring some of the collection’s rare instruments to the forefront for interpretation and interaction with the public. They decided to scan select instruments in order to create 3D models and 3D print outs for incorporation into an interactive museum kiosk. A few objects from instrument groups that are less represented in the museum’s halls were selected for scanning from collections storage.

The students coordinated with the Susan Thompson, a Curator at the collection, as well as collections interns, Kelly Hill and Katrin Endrikat for transportation and handling of the instruments. Once on the West Campus, instruments, crecelle and sansa, were carefully placed in front of NextEngine triangulation laser scanners for collection of data points corresponding to their exterior geometry. A student learned about the scanning process from the Digital Imaging Specialist, who guided him through acquiring data for their project. Another student later continued scanning. Post-processing and work on the kiosk and user interface was shared by the group.

Creating 3D models, was just one facet of the group’s final project. Their ultimate goal was to design a digital interface in which they could feature the 3D models and information about the unusual instruments. In order to achieve their goal of increasing visitor engagement, the group designed a game that both educates the public and encourages user interaction. They presented their work on 29 April at the Yale CEID.

The group stands behind their work with representatives from the collection and their teaching fellow, Matthew Reagor.

The group stands behind their work with representatives from the collection, Susan Thompson and Kelly Hill as well as their teaching fellow, Matthew Reagor. From left to right: Summer Wu, Zobia Chunara, Matthew Reagor, Daniel Fischer, Kelly Hill, Susan Thompson, Trey LaChance, and Cameron Yick. Image courtesy of Zobia Chunara.


A close up of the kiosk

A close up of the kiosk. Image courtesy of Zobia Chunara.

IPCH 3D Scans Cycadeoidea Fossil

In the late 1800s, amid the hubbub of the Black Hills Gold Rush and the lawlessness of Deadwood, a great scientific discovery was made in Dakota Territory. A specimen dealer unearthed a treasure-trove of beautifully preserved petrified tree trunks. The stout tree trunks, with diamond shaped cavities from which leaves once sprouted, were unlike any contemporary tree trunks in the area. They harkened back to an older time and were subtropical in appearance. These fossils were classified as Cycadeoidea.

Cycadeoidea were very common during the Jurassic and Cretaceous, when dinosaurs last roamed the Earth. They date to a time when the global climate was comparatively warm and as a result sea levels were considerably higher. It is projected that during this period, North America was oriented about a 45 degree rotation toward the Prime Meridian and was situated closer to the equator than today. This gave present-day South Dakota a warm climate, which fostered conditions quite hospitable to Cycadeoidea.

In 1898, George Reber Wieland, a paleontologist from the Peabody Museum, who was on assignment collecting vertebrate fossils in Dakota Territory on behalf of O.C Marsh, learned about the rich cretaceous Cycadeoidea trunks in Black Hills. George Reber Wieland was intrigued by the fossilized plants found here and shifted his focus to collecting and studying the 120 million year old Cycadeoidea specimens.  Wieland is credited with amassing a collection of around one thousand specimens.

A view of a Cycadeoidea fossil locality in South Dakota in 2012. Photograph taken by Shusheng Hu.

A view of a Cycadeoidea fossil locality in South Dakota in 2012. Image taken by Shusheng Hu.

This collection, still the largest Cycadeoidea collection in the world, is housed here at Yale and currently cared for by the Collections Manager of Paleobotany, Shusheng Hu. Shusheng approached the Digitization Lab in October of 2014 with the idea of digitizing the well-preserved structures of a Cycadeoidea trunk as a part of a greater conservation and research project.  This project, lead by the curator of Paleobotany, Dr. Peter Crane, focuses on the origin of early angiosperms, or flowering plants. The Cycadeoidea specimens are viewed as crucial to this project as they may provide new information about the origin of angiosperms. Since these specimens are quite heavy and precarious to move, creating 3D models has the capacity to greatly aid research, teaching and exhibition!

Scanning the Cycadeoidea trunk on location at the Yale Peabody Museum. Photograph taken by Shusheng Hu.

Scanning the Cycadeoidea trunk on location at the Yale Peabody Museum. Image taken by Shusheng Hu.

The Cycadeoidea trunk was acquired via ShapeGrabber triangulation laser scanner on location at the Peabody Museum.  The fossil was rotated between scans taken from different angles and objects were placed in the foreground to aid in alignment. Once the acquisition was complete, much time was invested in post-processing. Individual scans were cleaned, aligned and refined in order to yield the final geometry of the model.

Visualizing geometry of the 3D model in MeshLab. Snapshots taken with the Lambertian Lit Sphere radiance scaling shader applied.

Visualizing geometry of the 3D model in MeshLab. Snapshots taken with the Lambertian Lit Sphere radiance scaling shader applied.

This geometry has the potential to be interacted with and analyzed remotely by paleobotanists and enthusiasts alike. The 3D model has been incorporated into visualizations for education and outreach.


The 3D model, visualizations and print of this fossil were created with contributions and assistance from Chelsea Graham of the Yale IPCH Digitization Lab, Shusheng Hu of the Yale Peabody Museum, Holly Rushmeier of the Department of Computer Science and Ngoc Doan of the Yale CEID. Special thanks must also be given to Tim White and Annette Van Aken of the Yale Peabody Museum for coordinating and providing transportation of the equipment.


Grand Opening!

On April 4th, we celebrated the opening of the Yale Digital Collections Center Imaging Lab and the Research Labs of the Center for Conservation and Preservation. We gave tours of the Labs and, in the Imaging Lab, had demonstrations of our 3D scanners, robotics book scanners and vacuum copy stand.  We also showed off our color proofing areas, cove wall, easel and our large catwalk!  With approximately 200 visitors, the opening was a huge success!  Now that we are open, we are ready to scan, photograph and image cultural heritage objects.  Lights! Cameras at the ready!  Shoot!


There was a bustling crowd of approximately 200 at the ribbon cutting ceremony excited to get a tour of the new Imaging Lab!

Scott Strobel, Vice President of West Campus and of Planning and Program Development (middle), cuts the ribbon celebrating the opening of the YDC2 Imaging Lab and the Research Labs for the Center for Conservation and Preservation (CCAP) with Meg Bellinger, Director of YDC2, and Ian McClure, Director of CCAP.

Meg Bellinger gives an introduction and background on the Imaging Lab to the first crowd before the tours and demonstrations start.

John ffrench, Director of Visual Resources at the Yale University Art Gallery as well as a member of the Imaging Lab working group, explains the significance of the large studio space and the function of the easel, catwalk and cove wall.

Holly Rushmeier (left), Professor and Chair of Computer Science, demonstrates 3D imaging of cultural heritage objects using the ShapeGrabber 3D scanner with the help of Ruggero Pintus (far left), her Postdoctoral fellow.

NextEngine 3D scanner in the process of scanning an object while rendering the image on the computer screen. As the object is turned and scanned from all angles, the images will be combined to form a 3D image of the object on the computer.

Larry Gall, Head of the Computer Systems Office at the Yale Peabody Museum and a member of the Imaging Lab working group, demonstrates the Kirtas robotic book scanners to the crowd. Photos are taken of the left and right page of the book. A vacuum robotic arm then turns the page and the next set of photos are taken. At the highest speed, a 300 page book can be photographed in 8 minutes. After the photos are checked for quality by the user, they are turned into a PDF.

Richard Caspole (middle), a photographer at the Yale Center for British Arts, demonstrates the vacuum copystand and the importance of obtaining accurate color when photographing.

Melissa Fournier, Associate Registrar for the Yale Center for British Arts and a member of the Imaging Lab working group (back center), shows off our color proofing room, complete with black out curtain and explains why color proofing is important.

After the tours were over, there was a lovely reception with a glass of bubbly for everyone to celebrate all of their hard work.

A very special thanks to the collaborative efforts of the Imaging Lab working group for their hard work and dedication, without which this lab would not be possible.